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How to Shorten Sweater Sleeves

Learn how to shorten sweater sleeves that are too with just a sewing machine. Make sleeves the right length and keep the nice ribbed cuff.

Sometimes you find the perfect sweater, but the sleeves are just a little too long. I do not often have this problem, but I used to work at a tailor shop and was often doing this alteration. It is hard to find ready-to-wear clothing to fit you when you are not an average person.

This is a quick and simple way to shorten the sleeves of a sweater and keep it looking nice with the ribbed cuff. You do need a sewing machine to do this clothing alteration, but you do not need a serger.

How to shorten sweater sleeves

This is the sweater I shortened a couple years ago for a cropped look. I thought it would be the perfect sweater to show how to shorten the sleeves.

It is always worth it to make clothing fit you. It makes you feel confident and put together even in a simple sweater or shirt.

What is a sweater?

A sweater is an item of clothing with long sleeves that is made from wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers. It’s knitted or crocheted yarns or threads.

I’ve done this sewing technique on a sweater with yarns that were tightly knitted, and it worked well. I’ve done this on a cardigan, and it worked well. I’ve also done this on a sweater with yarns that were loosely knitted, and it worked well.

Why do I have to reattach the ribbing when shortening a sweater?

The knitted yarns of the sweater will come undone and start to run if it’s not finished in some way. Sometimes a sweater is hemmed just like a t-shirt to finish the edge. Sometimes a ribbing is knitted on to finish the edge.

By cutting the ribbing off and sewing it on higher (to shorten the sweater) you are creating a nice looking edge and finishing the yarns of the sweater so that it’s doesn’t run.

How to shorten sweater sleeves

Do you need to alter your sweaters? Try one of these sewing tutorials:

how to shorten sweater sleeves

How to Shorten Sweater Sleeves


  • Sweater with sleeves too long – sweaters with a tighter weave and smaller yarns work best
  • Thread that matches the sweater
  • Sewing tools
  • Sewing machine
sweater to shorten sleeves

Pu the sweater on and fold up the sleeve to the right length. Measure the amount folded up. (For example, 1 inch)

mark the amount needed to be removed

Turn the sweater inside out. Divide the measured amount in half. Mark this amount up from the cuff all the way around the sleeve. (For example, 1/2 inch)

mark foldline

Fold the sleeve along the foldline. It’s easiest if the cuff is folded inside the sleeve. Pin the fold in place.

fold on foldline and pin

Sew a zigzag stitch along the edge of the cuff all the way around.

zigzag next to ribbing

Do the same to the other sleeve.

press seam

If the seam is larger than 1/2 inch then trim it down to 1/2 inch. You can do this by cutting it and then serging or zigzagging to finish the edges.

remove any excess seam allowance

Turn the cuff out with the seam allowance inside pointing up towards the sleeve. Edgestitch 1/8 inch from the edge to keep the seam allowance in place.

topstitch seam allowance up towards the sleeve

Press everything well. If there’s any waviness then pressing and washing should help a lot.

press to remove any waviness

You finished!

how to shorten sweater sleeves

If you make something using this pattern, I’d love to see! Please share it on social media with the hashtag #heatherhandmade and tag me!

How to shorten sweater sleeves

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